In the case of utilized materials science, it’s arduous to beat NASA. Their solid-state wizards have been engaged on a number of formidable tasks, together with silicon dioxide wafers and a couple of dozen sorts of ceramic composites. Now some of us on the JPL have debuted a brand new form of engineered metallic cloth that they hope will see various purposes in area — and on different worlds.
The brand new metallic cloth is a versatile hybrid of chain mail and plate armor, within the horticultural sense of a hybrid: the offshoot of two totally different mother and father, having sure distinct and hopefully fascinating traits from each. NASA officers mentioned in a statement that this cloth and its kin have 4 important features: reflectivity, passive warmth administration, fold-ability, and tensile power. Chain mail has the helpful properties of sunshine weight and adaptability, as a result of it’s manufactured from a three-dimensional mesh. Its construction offers nice tensile properties that allow it collapse in on itself and stretch proper again out with out changing into work-hardened. But it surely’s much less efficient at stopping sure sorts of impacts than plate armor, which additionally has higher reflective properties.
So, in a reductionist sense, this new metallic cloth is like chain mail, besides with stuff hooked up to it. One facet has little sq. metallic plates on all of the rings, to supply an virtually unbroken floor of metallic armor. An impactor that struck a sheet of these things would see the sheet flex and prolong itself to catch the impactor. That might dissipate pressure throughout a lot of the material. However the cloth’s properties as armor aren’t the top of its utility. These metallic plates may very well be textured to make use of as next-gen treads on a rover like Curiosity, which depends as a substitute on strong aluminum cleats. And the flip facet of the material is not any slouch: its geometry offers it particular thermal properties, like the form of a warmth sink.
The material is produced by additive manufacturing. Raul Polit Casillas, the programs engineer who designed the material, comes from a background of each programs engineering and style design. Not like ring mail, there’s no mail weaver at a desk with pliers and a bucket of cut up rings, weaving these items collectively after which welding the plates to at least one facet of the material. Utilizing CAD and 3D printing, the designers had been capable of assemble this cloth with out welds or different mechanical junctures.
Aside from his work in direct R&D, Polit Casillas additionally co-leads a fast prototyping lab on the JPL known as the Atelier. His spatial considering has opened up new prospects for mechanical engineering. “I can program new features into the fabric I’m printing,” mentioned Polit Casillas. “That additionally reduces the period of time spent on integration and testing. You possibly can print, check and destroy materials as many instances as you need.”
As a result of the fabric will be folded in on itself, it may very well be used for big antennas, photo voltaic sails, and different gadgets that need to be deployed within the subject. Its electromagnetic properties additionally make it helpful for missions to Europa and different locations with excessive EM environments. And since it’s performed with additive manufacturing, the materials may plausibly be constructed in area — and even on the floor of one other planet, utilizing metals refined there.
“We name it ‘Four-D printing’ as a result of we will print each the geometry and the perform of those supplies,” mentioned Polit Casillas. “If 20th Century manufacturing was pushed by mass manufacturing, then that is the mass manufacturing of features.”
Supply: Extreme Tech